Goa hard-selling unique Sao Joao to promote tourism

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Panaji, June 23 (IANS) Tourism authorities in Goa are keen on cashing in on a unique Cathokic festival in which revellers leap into wells, swollen to the brim with the monsoon showers, in honour of St. John the Baptist, who is reckoned to have leapt in his mother’s womb on hearing of the arrival of Jesus Christ.

The one-day festival annually held on June 24 is one of the more unique Catholic festivals in Goa, but is overshadowed by the more obviously popular Catholic festivals like Christmas and the Carnival.

“Sao Joao is on the calendar of events and festivities of Goa Tourism. It is promoted widely through all our social media platforms, print, electronic and more. Goa Tourism Development Corporation organises a special boat cruise to celebrate Sao Joao and this event has become very popular among visiting tourists,” the Corporation’s chairperson Nilesh Cabral told IANS on Saturday.

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The feast of Catholic prophet Saint John the Baptist is held six months before Christmas and has its roots in a Biblical tale.

According to the Bible, when Mary, the mother of Jesus Chirst, was told she would conceive the Jesus, through an angelic apparition, she paid a visit to her cousin Elizabeth, who was carrying John (who later became St John the Baptist) in her womb. John, according to the Bible leapt for joy within the womb on hearing Mary’s greeting.

Hence, revellers wearing a traditional kopel (a flowery wreath) drenched to the bone in the rain, jump into rain-swollen wells across the state to celebrate the festival. The dwellers of the households in whose wells the celebration is carried out, welcome the revellers with feni, other liquors, fresh fruit and savouries.

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As they jump into the wells, the revellers shout cries of “Viva Sao Joao”.

“In Goa, the feast and festivities are unique as it is celebrated with a lot of fervor, customs and traditions attached to it. Sao Joao has now grown over the years and become a big attraction for tourists visiting Goa. Come June and it’s Sao Joao on everyone’s lips,” Cabral said.

The BJP MLA said that the festival, which is already popular locally, has caught on as a draw for tourists this year, because it falls on a Sunday.

“This year the festivities are on Sunday and we are definitely going to be packed with tourists. Hotels and resorts, clubs and village groups also organise big events on the occasion of Sao Joao and it’s getting bigger and better every year. We encourage everyone to celebrate the event responsibly and re-visit Goa every year to enjoy Sao Joao,” Cabral said.

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The festival, he said, also synced with the Goa Tourism’s vision of making the state, already a popular beach tourism destination in summer and winter, as a rain tourism destination.

“Goa has very unique monsoon festivals and tourists want to visit Goa even during the monsoons and enjoy the array of activities and events. And Sao Joao is one platform which gives them a truly unique experience of Goa’s traditions, culture, entertainment,” Cabral said.

–IANS

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